In April 2004, a Communist Party official told Chinese journalist Shi Tao how to report the upcoming 15th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square massacre.
Shi Tao took notes at the meeting, wrote up what he had been told to write, and e-mailed a copy to a pro-democracy web site in New York.
Unfortunately, Shi Tao used Yahoo web mail to send his e-mail. When the Chinese government approached Yahoo and asked them to reveal the personal information of the person who had signed up for the account, they gladly did so.
Asked about this at a conference in China, Yahoo’s Taiwanese co-founder Jerry Yang said:
“To be doing business in China, or anywhere else in the world, we have to comply with local law.”
Since then, people have pointed out that the journalist hadn’t been convicted of any crime. A Chinese lawyer—as in, a lawyer who actually practices law in China—has said that Yahoo was under no legal obligation to reveal the journalist’s name. It certainly seems that no legal action was taken against Yahoo to force them to rat out the guy.
It’s a pity there’s no Adolf Eichmann Award for Excellence in Only Following Orders, Jerry Yang would have a good chance of winning.